The 96-tonne crane exploded into a fireball just before 9.30pm between J2 for Beaconsfield and J1a for the M25.
Cars were trapped on the southbound M40 in Buckinghamshire overnight as 35 fire fighters and six engines battled to get the blaze under control.
Eye witnesses described hearing one very large explosion which shook nearby houses and cars up to 500 metres away, several smaller eplosions followed.
Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service said nobody was injured and the crane operator managed to escape before the fire took hold.
The six axle Grove GMK6400 All Terrain crane was owned by Purfleet-based City Lifting, which would not comment.
An Highways England spokesman said: “The lane closure will remain in place all day for safety reasons due to serious damage on the road surface, which is planned to be resurfaced tonight.”